He shall calculate with his purchaser [the number of years] from the year of his being sold to him until the Jubilee year; then, the purchase price shall be [divided] by the number of years; as the days of a hired worker, he shall be with him. (Vayikra 25:50)
The Jewish view of history is the opposite of that of the gentile world. They believe that as time goes on, the state of mankind improves. Technological advances, they say, have enabled man to maximize utilization of the human’s abilities. We are smarter, more comfortable and more in control of our environment than the simpler people of the past.
The Jewish view is that Adam was created with the “Hand of Hashem” and, as we move further and further away from that momentous sixth day of Creation, we are weaker than those who preceded us. The greats who stood at Har Sinai were followed by prophets who created generations of wise men who descended to the level of Rishonim and Acharonim, and so on until the present day.
If we look at the sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud as angels, then we qualify as mere human beings. If, however, we should consider them as humans, then we are to see ourselves as donkeys. How then can we expect to achieve the Final Redemption? If those so much greater than we are did not merit the coming of Moshiach, how can we?
The Chofetz Chaim, in his sefer on the Torah, says that the redemption of a Jewish slave holds the answer to this query. When a slave’s term was extended until the Yovel (Jubilee year), his servitude could be ended by the process of pidyon — redemption. In the early years, with the bulk of his slavery still in front of him, the price of redemption was high. As the Jubilee approached, there were fewer years left to his servitude and, therefore, the redemption price was reduced by the number of years that had already been served in bondage. This, says the Chofetz Chaim, explains how we can merit redemption while those much greater than us did not.
When Hashem decrees exile, He always sets the time for the redemption, as the verse in Iyov states: “He made an end to darkness, and every end He fathoms…” (Iyov 28:3). The number of years of exile, pogroms, inquisitions and Holocaust that have already been served have reduced the remaining balance on our spiritual account. The earlier generations needed much more merit to deserve what we do. Not only is there less time left to the end established at the outset, but also the trials and tribulations of our people have reduced the total needed for redemption.
Our task is easier to complete yet still requires great effort. Strengthening observance of Hashem’s commandments, increasing the amount and the fervor of Torah study and addition of acts of chessed are needed to pay off the debt due. The amount has been reduced but a balance still remains. May we all contribute to the payoff and merit to see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days. Amen!